A poem by Leland for Rale.
When I was born I was betrayed
My mother tried to kill me
For I was born wrong
Sickness marked me all over
I was a cur a curse a wanton filth
She thought a kindness was death
She threw me to the desert
But the desert men found me
Took me and raised me
As a second hand slave I was raised
A child of rejection and poverty and begging for scraps
I ran between the stalls of the desert men, not unhuman enough to kill, not human enough to love
We roamed through the desert
I stayed mostly with the children of the grit
Marred and scarred and blackened and raw they would not hit me
As I got older, the sickness that flaked my skin grew harder and tougher
Stranger by far, long thorns grew from me, and my eyes became a fetid yellow
I began to be called the demon. The demon they whispered, no longer in contempt, but also in fear.
As my muscles grew thick and crusted like a humanoid crab, my eyes began to wander
I hated the world as the world had hated me
But there was one little girl who treated me with kindness
The daughter of the leader of the desert men
The daughter of their sultan
She was a kind girl with a horrible scar on her face from an injury from when she was a baby
She had one eye that was emerald green
She placed bowls of water out at night
I knew they were meant for me
Her emerald eye reminded me of the eyes of my mother
I felt that my mother had killed herself and she had been reborn,
Now she was here to take care of me like she never had before
I got older and older and I never stopped growing
The other boys stopped growing, but five years later, they stood at my shoulder
Then they stood at my chest
Then they stood at half my height
The fear in the desert men’s eyes grew
Their deep religious belief in the martyr was being pushed
They began to talk about the “Demon among them”
I watched the little girl grow up.
She was beautiful
Long brown hair and that emerald eye
My mother’s eye
She started to leave food behind with the water, and flowers, and then a lock of her hair.
I kissed it and nuzzled it and tried to breathe it inside of me
And I would watch her from the corners of my eyes.
As I roamed through the tent filled trading stalls, resting on my knuckles, clawing into the dirt with my back feet.
She came one night
And touched my face
Not afraid. Not like the others.
She held my face that night
And she cried
Her one eye pouring sweet and salty tears onto my mountainous, grotesque frame.
The people came the next night.
Her father came the next night
The torches came the next night
They told me to leave.
They pointed towards the desert
The said go anywhere but here.
My humanity had run up in their eyes
They owed me nothing
The savior owed me nothing.
I crawled into the desert
The aching moon at my back
The harsh sun on my face.
I walked through the desert, lumbering like a barge as the heat cracked my skin like stone
I licked rocks for water
I smelled foul nests of bugs using my strange and sensitive nose
I ate the creatures
While I thought of her
My mother reborn who abandoned me again.
As I walked into the heat of the sands
And the ice cold nights
I realized I was never human.
And I no longer wanted to be.
Part 2 here.
Top image: “Hazeen’s Man of the Clouds”, by Rae Johnson